Elder abuse calls prompts new role

A deluge of calls relating to elder abuse will see Age Concern Marlborough taking on an extra staff member to deal with the problem.

The group has received a grant from the Social Development Ministry's Family and Community Services department to employ the specialised worker after receiving more than 100 calls relating to elder abuse in Marlborough last year.

Community support worker Helen North said Age Concern Marlborough did not have an exact figure for calls between June 2011 and July 2012 because there was no-one working solely on elder abuse. Staff started taking note of elder abuse calls in June last year after noticing a surge in complaints, she said.

The elder abuse and neglect prevention co-ordinator starts in Marlborough at the beginning of next month, bringing the Age Concern team to three, alongside the community support worker and support services worker.

The new staff member would provide support to older people and work alongside inter-agency group the Marlborough Violence Intervention Project Committee, which includes other anti-abuse groups such as Women's Refuge. The committee was intending to organise elder abuse seminars and events to highlight the growing problem.

Ms North said elder abuse often went unreported because it involved family members and victims felt ashamed and embarrassed.

"After making initial contact, they often don't want to take it any further," she said.

"It's like the elephant in the room, nobody wants to talk about it."

Elder abuse wasn't just physical, but could involve taking financial advantage of an older person, not listening and over-riding their choices, threats of abandonment and taking over their property, she said.

Those responsible were not always aware that they were guilty of abuse.

Age Concern Marlborough chairwoman Jane Laing said she welcomed the ministry grant to provide a specialist to counter abuse of the elderly.

"Our statistics show us that there is a need for an elder abuse co-ordinator in our community and these funds will help us extend our services to accommodate this need."

The Marlborough Express